This is my final post about RnR NOLA and probably the best one if you ask me. There’s a crazy story to tell and a lot of lessons to be learned. It’s taken me a few days to gather my thoughts about this so here we go…
I set my alarm for race day at 4:30am. It usually takes me some time to get out of bed but Sunday was different. I could barely sleep the night before from all the exploding nerves in my body. Still, I felt energized and ready to do this. The race didn’t officially start until 7am and I was in corral 14 which would be released at approximately 7:20ish. I had a lot of time to continue stretching, eat breakfast (banana and 2 pieces of bread with peanut butter), and do what girls do in the bathroom. The "plan" was to meet up with Mary at 6:15.
|Ready to go
The start village and start line were very close to our hotel – only about 2 blocks away. All you had to do was follow the swarm of runners and you were golden. It was a little difficult to find Mary in the sea of people (22,000 runners were expected for the full and half) so I hit up a porta potty while Ricky Ticky Tavi took pics and served as my race slave. He’s such a good sport.
It was a little cool out, probably in the upper 40s, so I wore a hooded sweatshirt that I could easily throw away if need be. After hanging out in the race village for a little while, I ended up finding Mary and her hubby, we exchanged good lucks and then I hit up the porta potty AGAIN (at least twice before races, crazy I know). Before I knew it we were lining up in our respective corrals. RM waited with me for a few minutes before he had to leave. I was pretty comfortable with the temps at that point so I gave him my hoodie so I didn’t have to throw it away.
As I was standing there waiting to get this show on the road, I creepily eavesdropped on other runners’ conversations. I didn’t know anyone and I really wasn’t interested in chatting. I closed my eyes, thought about what I was about to do, and then bolted from my corral. Just kidding. Instead I envisioned myself crossing the finish line.
|Almost there, corral 14!
My goal was to just take it slow. This was the first time I was attempting 26.2 miles and I didn’t want to burn out. Your first should really be about finishing, right? Time goals are somewhat unrealistic since you have no idea what to expect. Well, I didn’t want to believe that and over the past few months I secretly have had my eye set on 4:30. I could do that. Every long run (and short) proved that 4:30 was not unrealistic for me. I guess you could say that finishing was really Goal A and 4:30 was Goal B.
I was in the middle of my corral when the horn went off – it was probably around 7:25 or so. The nerves had subsided by this point and I felt good. I was going to do this. Go slow, stay at a conversational pace, I told myself. If I felt that I was speeding up, I would consciously turn it down a notch and slow down. I wanted to have enough steam to get me through the first 20 miles. The race really starts after that. Or so they say.
I decided not to listen to music just so I could take in the sights, only using it when absolutely necessary later on if I needed to. The first few miles through the Central Business District were uneventful until we turned down St. Charles Avenue. This road would take us out and back through the infamous Garden District (think Anne Rice) and up to the Audubon Zoo. The crowds were so supportive, the vibe was fantastic and I was feeling good although I was probably hovering around 10:30-11:00/mile. It was crowded so I wasn’t too concerned since I figured I could break away later, especially when we split from the halfers. Some runners chose to run on the grassy streetcar area and I opted not to do this because it looked deceiving – bumpy and uneven – and I didn’t want to risk falling. So, I stuck to the road and hit the 5K split at the 33 minute mark.
And then it happened.
Actually, this is an understatement. I slid down the road like I was a little leaguer sliding into home plate.
I was mortified. What the?!?!
Everything happened in slow motion but as I was on my way to kiss the ground all I could think was, "Are you kidding me? Is this really happening?!"
Let me preface this all by saying that the roads in NOLA are in extreme disrepair. I knew this going into the marathon and was very careful to take this into consideration, thus the reason to run slow and comfortable without music. I don’t have a long stride and while my feet don’t soar through the air when I run, I didn’t think I’d have a problem. Aside from slipping on black ice this winter I have never taken a downright tumble during all these years.
NOLA had taken me hostage. I lost my footing on an uneven and very gravelly section of the road. I broke my fall with my right hand, slid and then somehow tumbled onto my knees and then onto my left side. Graceful. Two female runners stopped to help me and to make sure I was ok. My response? "It’s all good. I’m okay!" I actually picked myself up fairly quickly and continued on. What else was there to do? I was sore and my knees and hand stung but it was fine.
And then I looked down.
The skin on my hand was sheared off and bleeding terribly. My knees were dripping blood. Oy vey. Despite this, I knew that if I could just get to the next medical tent to clean myself up I could continue on. I’d lose time but I couldn’t think about that. There was a water stop right before the medical tent, a little less than half a mile from where I fell. I quickly rinsed my hand and knees off which made my skinned knees look even worse. Hmm, maybe white compression socks weren’t a good idea after all.
At the medical tent I encountered two lovely but overwhelmed teenagers who struggles to find bandaids for me. They seemed grossly underprepared – and grossed out! I grabbed some paper towels, patted myself down, took what they had to offer and bandaged myself up as best as I could.
I was upset and mad at this point. It took me a few miles to get my head back in the game. The mental toll this took on me was the worst part. I was so distracted that I could barely even enjoy myself. For a split second I thought, "That’s it, I’m done." I was sore, the bandaids were flapping ridiculously in the wind, and a small part of me just wanted to check out.
YOU DON’T GIVE UP.
This is where I tough loved myself. My legs weren’t broken, I didn’t have a concussion. I had some skinned knees. Big deal. Grow up! I didn’t train for all these months and travel this far to cash it in after 3 measly miles. Plus, I’m cheap. If I gave up, those would be the 3 most expensive miles I have ever run. I was going to earn that medal no matter how long it took. I regained my composure.
I saw RM on his bike around mile 6. He didn’t notice what had happened and I wanted to tell him so bad so I yelled to him, "I fell at mile 3! Look! My knees! Blood! But I’m ok….see ya!" At this point I think I was a bit delirious because the tough love sank in and I just thought to myself – you are running a marathon after taken a hard fall. How crazy and amazing is that?! RM was speechless and I zipped passed him.
We found each other again at mile 8 because he was mortified and wanted to make sure I was ok. I stopped to show him that bones were not popping out anywhere and that I was good to go. My bandaids were looking pretty disgusting by this point and were annoying me but I kept them on to protect the battle wounds.
After all of this fanfare, we ran through the French Quarter which was pretty cool before taking a turn up Esplanade Avenue. I was pretty warm by this point since there wasn’t a lot of shade but I was feeling okay despite the situation. I walked through the water stops as planned and managed not to fall again on Esplanade which was even more torn up than St. Charles.
After running up Esplanade, the half marathoners turned into City Park to the finish while the marathoners continued to the left. This part of the course was a little boring but there were bands and spectators to keep the mood lively. I was feeling pretty well-hydrated, I had extra food on me and had packed 5 Chocolate Outrage Gus (only used 4) which I took approximately every 45 minutes beginning at mile 7 or so. I think I took my second right around the halfway mark.
This is always an interesting point in a long run for me because between miles 11-14 I start to get so hungry. The Gu helped a little bit but the angel with the tray of PB and jelly sandwiches at mile 15 was sent straight from heaven. I took a pass on the mimosas, beer, and martinis.
I was somewhat excited that we were at a point in the course were we’d be making our way up to Lake Pontchartrain. I had never been to this part of NOLA before and even though I plugged my music in at mile 15, I still managed to take in the lake. It was a beautiful day. It was at this point in the course where I had to stop at the med tent again to re-bandage my hand. I wound up stopping one additional time to slather on some Vaseline to ward off the impending chub rub that was starting to make me uncomfortable.
|"I hate these bandaids. I want to die. No, I don’t want to die. I want to finish. I hope these socks aren’t ruined."
I saw RM at mile 18ish taking pics and it was after that when the euphoria started to settle in for a few miles. I’m running! I’m running a marathon! Look at me! The music was good, I was singing to myself to take my mind off the last 8 miles and all was good in the world. It was hot but I was feeling comfortable even though I was slowing down.
Then came mile 22.
Yup, it’s real folks. All too real. Up until this point I’ve only read about it and heard horror stories. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, really, especially since I’m good at picking up the pace towards the end of a long run just so I can cross the finish line strong. This clearly was not going to happen – at least not now. My pace was hovering around 11:00-11:30/mile and I had to take a few walk breaks just to muster up enough energy to keep going. I wasn’t alone. It was at this point in the race where everyone around me looked like they were walking the Bataan death march. Everyone slowed, shuffled, and started to hunch over. Fellow thirtysomethings looked like they had the bodies of 90 year olds. Let’s just get this done, people.
I couldn’t be happier to see City Park. I was ready to be finished. I even hallucinated a little. Weird. I thought I saw RM with one of our dogs and proceeded to convince myself this was the case around mile 25. It wasn’t him and our dog did not fly to NOLA to see me finish my first marathon. Bummer.
I ran alongside one woman whose husband was there to encourage her to get through the last quarter mile. It was so sweet and even though he wasn’t encouraging me, I felt so happy for her. We were almost done.
I bolted through the finish line chute like I was being chased by a sasquatch.
Finish time: 5:00:15.
I grabbed my medal and had this picture taken:
I immediately hobbled over to the medical tent so they could wash off my bloody knees and had them ice my quads which were very sore. (Note to self: this will hurt even more tomorrow)
I think I had delusions of grandeur prior to running my first marathon. I thought there would be all this fanfare, tears streaming down my face in pure joy over having covered 26.2 miles. Nope. No one was there to greet me at the end. Now, this isn’t anyone’s fault – we had all agreed to meet each other in the family reunion area. When I got there, RM and Mary had already set out to find me to make sure I was ok. Once they came back, that’s when all the hugging ensued. But, deep down, I was mad with myself, I wasn’t even grateful that I was able to run a marathon. I was mad that after months of training it came down to a battle with a pothole at mile 3. I’m still trying to find the words to sum up all these feelings.
But, in the end, I ran a marathon. That’s all that should matter, right?
Have you ever taken a tumble on a run? What about during a major race? How were you able to regain your composure?